Charging up


Towns eye grant for stations

Two Nissan Leaf electric cars are parked outside City Hall in Torrington at a charging station in July. –RA ARCHIVE
Two Nissan Leaf electric cars are parked outside City Hall in Torrington at a charging station in July. –RA ARCHIVE

Naugatuck and Beacon Falls are looking into a state grant program to bring electric vehicle chargers to the towns.

According to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, which is overseeing the program, the grants would cover between 50 and 100 percent of the cost of the electric vehicle supply equipment as well as installation costs up to $10,000.

To be eligible for 100 percent funding, the charging stations must be available to the public at no cost and at all times. The charging stations must also be located at a heavy traffic area in towns that presently do not have a charging station.

Senior Planner for the Council of Governments of the Central Naugatuck Valley Pat Gallagher spoke to the Beacon Falls Board of Selectmen Monday night about the grant. He said the grant program is part of a state energy plan, which is trying to make it easier to get around with electric cars.

“It’s kind of a chicken or egg dilemma. Do you have the electric cars first or do you have the charging stations first? They’ve decided that you have to have the charging stations before people are going to be buying electric cars,” Gallagher told the board.

The Board of Mayor and Burgesses voted this month to authorize Naugatuck Mayor Robert Mezzo to apply for the grant. Mezzo plans to look into the matter further before deciding whether to apply.

Borough officials are eyeing the train station on Water Street for the charging station.
If the charging station was placed at the train station, the borough would rank highly for the opportunity to receive full funding, Mezzo said.

Controller Robert Butler added the borough is likely to receive a full grant because there are not many around the Naugatuck Valley area.

The two closest charging stations are in Middlebury and West Haven.

Bielik said Beacon Falls has two locations where it could place the charging stations.

The first option is the town-owned commuter parking lot on North Main Street. The second option is near the town’s train station on Railroad Avenue.

Bielik said the only problem with locating the charging station at the train station is that the Department of Transportation owns the land. The town would have to get DOT approval before placing the charger at the station, he said.

Even if Beacon Falls and Naugatuck receive 100 percent funding for the charging stations, the towns would be liable for the cost of the electricity and the maintenance.

According to Gallagher the annual cost to charge a car could range from $260 for a Toyota Prius Hybrid to $3,580 for a Tesla Model S. These numbers were based on using the charging stations for one full charge every day for an entire year.

Bielik said he would prefer to have the charging station at the train station because cost would be incurred by the Department of Transportation rather than the town.

The Beacon Falls Board of Selectmen voted Monday to seek the grant with the train station being the first choice of locations to place the charging station.

Mezzo said the benefit of having a charging station in downtown Naugatuck would outweigh the borough’s costs.

“It brings people to your community. So you may incur an electric cost, but I think there is a public benefit to bringing people to your town and it might help increase ridership of the line as well,” Mezzo said.

Naugatuck Burgess Alex Olbrys agreed with Mezzo, saying that during his recent visit to Colorado he saw the affect charging stations had on a community.

“When I was in Colorado one of the towns had a river walk and they had these charging stations. You could see a lot of people park their cars and walk along the river walk. They were going into stores and buying things,” Olbrys said.

Bielik felt it was a good idea to pursue the grant now before charging stations were prevalent across the state.

“My thinking about this is getting ahead of the bow wave is always a good idea,” Bielik said.

Naugatuck Burgess Rocky Vitale was concerned the station wouldn’t bring a lot of people from out of town given an electric car’s limited range.

Mezzo said there are many commuters who come to the borough’s train station from out of town who could charge their cars while taking the train.

Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield said the town has no plans to apply for the grant.

The grant applications are due by Aug. 27. If Naugatuck or Beacon Falls receives a grant, they have to have the charging stations up and running by Nov. 14.